Dispatches - Greenland Crossing 2016

June 09, 2016

Follow our Greenland Crossing team as they skied east to west across Greenland in April/May 2014. The team was led by Maxime Poncet.

Dispatches - Greenland Crossing Expedition 2016

The Adventure Consultants Greenland Crossing Expedition is set to travel 540km/335 miles across the interior of Greenland from Ammassalik/Kulusuk on the East Coast to Sondre Stromfjord on the West Coast, traversing the world's second biggest sheet of ice.

It takes about 10 days to climb up to the highest part of the ice sheet on this route, topping out at 2,500m. From the summit it takes about a week to reach the phantom radar station DYE 2, used to monitor the Russians during the Cold War and surely one of the most bizarre buildings on the planet. From this strange place, it takes around 5 days to get to terra firma - Point 660, the landfall on the western side of the ice sheet.

Depending on the snow conditions and weather that the team encounters, the expedition will last between 21 - 30 days in total.

Expedition members:

  • Maxime Poncet (Expedition Leader)
  • Calvin Shields
  • Gareth Andrews
  • John Willis
  • Matthew Burnell

16 April 2016 - The Greenland Crossing is about to start
The Greenland Crossing Expedition is about to start. The expedition members travelling from overseas are arriving in Iceland this weekend. On Tuesday the 19th, our team of five will fly to Kulusuk, East Greenland and continue straight on to Tasiilaq. There they will stay for two nights before being flown up to Hahn glacier where the actual crossing starts.

In Tasiilaq they need to take care of some paperwork, hand in permits and complete final preparations before starting the almost month-long journey across to the western side of the ice cap.

We will post comments from expedition members and keep you informed about how things are going in general. We will try give those at home some insight into the expedition life, so stay tuned if you are interested in following how the expedition is going.

21 April 2016 - Preparing for the long journey ahead
Preparing for a long expedition is a lot of work. A whole lot of gear was sent over to Greenland from Iceland some days before the team arrived. They then, of course, brought even more with them. Then when it all had come together, plus even more that was picked up in Tasiilaq, it was all organised and weighed.

Here are few photos of the team preparing just before leaving for Hahn glacier where the actual ski crossing begins. They are organising, packing, weighing and loading the helicopter.

01 21 4 Sorting gear

Sleds are packed...

02 21 4 Weighing sleds

and weighed...

03 21 4 Sled weight04 21 4 Load Carry

before being carried to the waiting helicopter.

05 21 4 Loading heli06 Walking to heli

Finally the team boards for departure.

26 April 2016 - Camp 5 - The story so far
Maxime, the expedition leader, and his group started their journey last Thursday. The progress on Friday, their first full day of the tour, was rather slow with the group only covering 6km (3.7 miles). The conditions were not optimal with heavy wet snow on a warm day (+4°C at 8pm). They did 15km (9.3 miles) on Saturday, 16.8km (10.4 miles) on Sunday and again 15km (9.3 miles) on Monday. Maxime told us yesterday that “it is still very warm (+7°C) and snow is melting at 1,348m above sea level”. He also told us that everyone was OK and the group was in good spirits.

From everyone here at the Adventure Consultants office: Godspeed and good luck with the remaining 500km!

30 April 2016 - Camp 9 and conditions improving
Maxime sent us a message last night. They are at Camp 9 and did 25km yesterday and 20km the day before that. So they are picking up speed and overall doing pretty well. It’s been very warm lately but now it looks like it’s getting colder and the conditions for skiing and dragging the supplies should get better.

It was a bit windy yesterday (12m/s) and it was snowing. The forecast for the next few days looks good. It’s still going to be colder than the last few days, some precipitation but only light winds from the north. Let’s hope that will be the case.

“I think we will reach the highest point in 3 days” Maxime said. Now at Camp 9 they are at 1,977m. More news from the team coming up very soon.

3 May 2016 - Colder and windier
07 High WallsWe got a message from Maxime and the team this morning, now just about to leave Camp 12 (at 2,345m altitude). After some initial warm days, it’s getting way colder. Maxime tells us that it is now “-28°C at 7am and -35°C yesterday night. A bit windy (12m/s), it’s going to be pretty cold today.” But all is OK and some pretty extreme weather is something to be expected. Now it’s cold but in general the weather is stable.

The condition of the team is good overall, even though some have blisters, “but nothing bad” Maxime assures us.

We will stay in touch with the team and report on how they are doing but because of how cold it is at the moment, they can’t stop for more than 15 to 20 minutes at a time during the day. So we can´t expect them to be texting that much, just mainly at night after they have set up the camp.

Here is a short description of how their daily life goes: “We start every day at 8.30am and stop at around 5.30/6.00pm. It takes about 40 minutes to build the wall around camp and then we pitch our tents. At ten o’clock everybody is asleep. Max”

More later…

6 May 2016 - Highest Point
Maxime brought us good news yesterday. They have reached the highest point of the route.

“We slept at the top of the ridge 2,480m. On the way to Dye 2. Should take us 4 days.” So from now on they will be going downhill.

We will try to get more info from the team on conditions in the area. The weather has been stable lately and we hope it will stay like that.

7 May 2016 - 30km away from DYE 2 Radar Station
10 5 Dye 2 Radar Station ArchiveWe received a phone call from Maxime tonight (Saturday, 7th of May) at Camp 17, now only 30km away from DYE 2 radar station. The last three days have been going really well; they’ve been covering over 30km each day. So they will hopefully reach the station tomorrow.

Maxime aims to reach Point 660 in 7 days, but let’s see about that. The fact is that the last section on the western side is extremely wet according to people in Kangerlussuaq and the water might slow them down. They have also had this confirmed by two Norwegian teams they recently met that started their crossings on the west side. They also saw a flock of geese flying over yesterday but didn´t manage to get any useful information out of them.

If they reach Point 660 in 7 days, they will be there on the 14th of May. If this goes as planned, they would like to do the awesome two-day hike from Point 660 (the western edge of the glacier) down to Kangerlussuaq village.

So far the weather has not been too problematic. But now this coming Sunday and Monday the wind is picking up quite a lot, blowing from the south, not really calming down until late Monday or Tuesday. It’s also getting warmer and it continues to be warm -not exactly what we hoped for since there is already a lot of melting happening on the western side.

So there might be challenging times ahead and challenges are something that is to be expected on an expedition like this one. The good thing is that the team is strong, everyone feeling good and healthy and spirits are high.

10 May 2016 - The team reaches the radar station DYE 2
09 DYE2Yesterday morning we got a message from Maxime and were relieved to hear that all had gone according to plan despite the storm on Sunday. True, this was a long day and conditions difficult but skiing from 8.30am in the morning to 7pm in the evening did the trick and they reached DYE 2, the bizarre remnants of a Cold War radar station out there on the ice cap.

There were four Cold War radar stations across Greenland, two of them on the ice cap (DYE 2 and DYE 3). Those were abandoned in 1988 in 72 hours and almost everything was left behind. Inside the strange dome you will find a fully equipped kitchen and other remnants of the necessities for daily life. Time will erase all of this and one day ski explorers will simply ski past without even noticing, since the structures are slowly sinking into the ice.

Luckily the wind is slowing down and today Maxime and his group continue heading for Point 660, enjoying the stable conditions of the ice cap before the real ordeal starts, finding a way through the labyrinth of the ice fall.

Yesterday the team covered 35 kilometers despite strong winds from the south. After yet another windy night, this morning it is still quite windy but they are intent on continuing. Weather forecasts show that the wind will lessen somewhat today so hopefully the team can enjoy the last days on this immense ice cap in relative calm.

12 May 2016 - Getting closer to Point 660
This morning the team is 89km from Point 660 and if all goes according to plan they will stand on terra firma by Saturday evening. They have been doing great over the last 2 days, covering 30km despite difficult conditions, wind and wet snow. There has also been some rain making their lives even more difficult and views have been limited due to fog.

10 Past Radar StationTheir prayers, and ours as well, for a drop in temperatures have gone unnoticed up until now but their spirits are still high and they are far from moaning at all. Yesterday they met 2 groups coming up from Point 660 so they have recent news of the condition of the ice fall. A minor cold has been bothering Gareth but he is getting better. They will continue today in less wind and if the forecast is correct they will have no rain either and hopefully some views, since the peaks leading up to the ice cap should be within view during those last few days.

We send our good thoughts to Maxime and his team hoping for some great last days on the ice and cannot wait to hear how they tackle the ice fall.

14 May 2016 - Going through the icefall
11 Ice FallMaxime just called and reported that the team was on the edge of the ice fall and would spend the day tackling its obstacles. Last night they camped at the edge of the ice fall and spent what will hopefully be their last night on the ice. If they complete the navigation through the ice fall they will set up camp on Point 660, a small and barren hill at the edge of the ice. Weather is not bothering them too much today, even though they would appreciate slightly lower temperatures.

12 WaterNavigating through the ice fall can be a tough feat since you constantly need to change course in order to find the best way out of this labyrinth that the cracks and ridges of the ice have formed. Temperatures have been high the last few days so there might be some water to tackle as well. We wish the team all the luck with getting through the ice fall and look forward to hear how they dealt with this last obstacle of the expedition. We will of course report as soon as the team has come off the ice.

15 May 2016 - Arrival at Point 660
13 Point 660 in viewYesterday was a tough day for the team but they succeeded in reaching their goal for the day - the fabled Point 660, which they have been aiming for all along. This marks the completion of the traverse of the Greenland Ice Cap from east to west. Congratulations!

Maxime called us last night and confirmed that they would continue into the early hours of the morning in order to reach Point 660, estimating arrival there around 1am. He said that the ice fall was proving to be really tricky with crevasses and cauldrons to navigate through and the slushy and wet conditions had not been favourable. The team was not skiing at all yesterday but dragging the, by now lightweight pulkas along, wearing their boots and crampons. Needless to say they must all have been very tired, yet elated upon reaching Point 660. Let’s hope they all enjoyed a good night’s sleep off the ice.

Happy crossing to all the team members!

20 May 2016 - End of a successful Greenland Ice Cap Crossing!
15 Ready for Take OffIn the morning of the 15th of May, the team was picked up from Point 660 and driven down to Kangerlussuaq. There they spent two nights and after sorting out the cargo being sent back to Iceland they flew over to Nuuk, the capital and largest town of Greenland. After one night there they flew back to Reykjavík in Iceland where the expedition officially ended.

The team originally flew from Iceland to Greenland on the 19th of April. They were flown up to the Hahn Glacier on the 21st of April and came off the ice very early on the 15th. That makes the total length of the expedition 31 days, including the departure and arrival date, with 24 days spent on the ice cap itself.

16 Hahn GlacierTo celebrate the end of a successful crossing they opened up a bottle of sparkling wine and made a toast when back at the guesthouse. After that the group headed for a goodbye dinner and drinks at a nearby restaurant.

It was great to see how happy the team was after this long and challenging trip. Also to see how well all the expedition members seem to have gotten along and have been able to function well together. A strong and competent team like this makes the experience more enjoyable for all and most important, memorable.

Calvin, Gareth, John and Matthew, thank you for joining us and we hope to see you again one day. Maxime, many thanks for an excellent job, we really appreciate your expertise, knowledge and experience.

14 20 5 Team Celebrations

9 June 2016 - Post Expedition Summary
Adventure Consultants finished their 6th crossing of the Greenland Ice Cap in May 2016. The team of five was led by Maxime Poncet, from our Icelandic Partners, Icelandic Mountain Guides. The crossing went very well in general. The weather was good most of the time and they were able to move on every single day. The team was strong and no major problems came up with health or other issues.

As usual, the most challenging part of the route were the last three days when they travelled through the ice fall on the West side. Mid-May it´s getting warmer and a lot of melting is going on. This was no exception and the team had to battle through uneven terrain, navigate through fields of water pools and cross streams of flowing water.

Adventure Consultants has always crossed from the East to West, the same direction Fridtjov Nansen chose when he became the first person to cross in 1888. We start from either Isortoq or Hahn Glacier and exit the ice cap at Point 660 near Kangerlussuaq.

14a Route

Maxime and his team originally flew from Iceland to Greenland on the 19th of April. After two days of preparation in Tasiilaq, they were flown up to Hahn glacier on the 21st of April and came off the ice very early on the 15th of May. That makes the total length of the expedition 31 days including the departure and arrival date, there of 24 days spent on the ice cap it self. Total distance covered is about 540km.

Preparing for a long expedition is a lot of work. A lot of gear was sent over to Greenland from Iceland some days before the team arrived. They then of course brought even more with them. When it all had come together, plus even more that was picked up in Tasiilaq, it was all organized and weighed.
The first days after the team started skiing it was very warm, making the conditions sub-optimal. The progress in the beginning was rather slow. When the snow is wet, it´s harder to ski and drag the heavy load.

But it became colder and after that they picked up more speed. They managed to cover more than 20km each day. It actually became a lot colder. At Camp 12 the temperature went down to -35°C during the night, and it was very cold in the day also. The wind was also blowing a bit making them feel the cold even more. Extreme weather is something to be expected on an expedition like this. During the whole expedition, the physical condition of the team was good. Some blisters but nothing serious.

08 Storm DamageWhen asked how their daily routine was, Maxime told us that they started every day at 8.30am and stopped skiing between 5pm and 6pm. It took them about 40 minutes to build a wall to protect them from the wind and then they pitched the tents. At ten o’clock usually everyone was asleep.

They reached their highest point on the ice cap on the 5th of May and put up Camp 15 at 2,480m. From there it took them four days to reach the DYE 2 radar station. Since the highest point on the route had been reached, from then on they would be skiing downhill slightly. That meant more kilometres covered each day and less effort into skiing and dragging the load.

The excitement was building as the team got closer to the end of their journey. The last part, the ice fall, is usually the trickiest bit. Navigating through it can be a tough feat, since you constantly need to change course in order to find the best way out of the labyrinth that the cracks and ridges of the ice have formed. Temperatures were high the few days before so there was a lot of flowing water to tackle. And the ice fall proved to be really tricky with crevasses and cauldrons and it was slushy and wet. They did not ski at all on the last day but dragged the pulkas along, wearing their boots and crampons. Needless to say, they were very tired after working for 24 hours. They just wanted it to finish so badly that they kept on going and didn't stop until they came off the ice and reached Point 660, during the early morning of the 15th of May.

Later in the morning, they were picked up by people from Old Camp, a guest house in Kangerlussuaq. There they spent two nights and after sorting out the cargo being sent back to Iceland, they flew over to Nuuk, the capital and largest town in Greenland. After one night in Nuuk they flew back to Reykjavík Iceland where the expedition officially ended.

17 Inside Tent

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